The Clean Water Service Delivery Act of 2019 (Act 76) establishes a new water quality project delivery approach to meet Vermont’s clean water goals, and establishes a long term funding source for the Vermont Clean Water Fund. Act 76 establishes new regional organizations called Clean Water Service Providers (CWSPs). With policy and priority setting from their related Basin Water Quality Councils, CWSPs will receive formula-based State grants to oversee and support the identification, construction, and maintenance or “non-regulatory” water quality projects necessary to achieve the Lake Champlain and Lake Memphremagog phosphorus TMDLs and other pollutant reduction targets both inside and beyond these specific basins.

Formula grants received by CWSPs will come from the Clean Water Fund and be sized relative to pollution reduction targets for phosphorus and other pollutant reductions in the basin(s) for which the CWSP is responsible. These targets will be established within tactical basin plans for each major watershed in Vermont subject to a pollution control plan, or TMDL Operations and maintenance funds will also be provided to CWSPs as a formula grant, to continually maintain and operate the project they have built. Act 76 foundationally modifies how the Department will issue grants for water quality improvement and protection projects in the future. Once established, CWSPs will also be eligible to apply for other competitive funding offered by the Clean Water Fund or other water quality funding sources.

In support of Act 76, the Department has recently released for public comment a draft Request for Proposals (RFP). As described in the comment draft, the purpose of the RFP, when issued later this winter, will be to solicit proposals from entities interested in serving as CWSPs. This public comment draft was developed by DEC, in consultation with a stakeholder engagement group consisting of Regional Planning Commissions, Natural Resources Conservation Districts, Watersheds United Vermont, and stakeholders from academia, advocacy, and consultancies. Those entities selected by the RFP will be those assigned as a watershed-based Clean Water Service Provider, in a forthcoming Rule that DEC will write this winter. The deadline to publish the Clean Water Service Provider Rule is November 1st, 2020.

As this draft was developed with specific input from the stakeholder group, the Department is putting the draft out for full public comment, to avoid any undue advantage to the stakeholder group members whom assisted DEC. If you have interest in the establishment of the Clean Water Service Provider network, please consider reviewing and commenting on this draft RFP. Comments are due January 17th, 2020.

More information about Act 76 and all of the efforts to implement this important water quality legislation may be found here.